(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights take the ice tomorrow for Game 1 of the 2024 playoffs, they’ll do it in a pair of situations not many teams get to experience.

First, and most obviously, they’ll be the reigning champions looking to become just the third team in the last 25 years to repeat as champs.

History is mixed on the success of the defending champs in their next trip to the playoffs. Four of the last 15 champions have made it back to the Stanley Cup Final, with the Lightning and Penguins finishing the job and winning back-to-back. Tampa Bay nearly pulled it off for a third year in a row back in 2022 too, losing to Colorado in the Final. The other team to make it back was the 2009 Red Wings who fell in Game 7 when Marc-Andre Fleury made the signature save of his career.

On the flip side, six of the last 15 defending champs have lost in the first round and another didn’t even make it back to the playoffs. Colorado fell last year in the first round to an upstart Seattle team that scored the first goal on the Avs in all seven games. St. Louis stumbled in the bubble in 2020, while Washington (2019), Chicago (2016), Boston (2012), and Chicago (2011) all lost in the first round as well.

2023 – Colorado – Lost in 1st Round in 7 to SEA
2022 – Tampa – Lost in Cup Final in 6 to COL
2021 – Tampa – Won Stanley Cup in 5 vs MTL
2020 – St. Louis – Lost in 1st Round in 6 to VAN
2019 – Washington – Lost in 1st Round in 7 to CAR
2018 – Pittsburgh – Lost in 2nd Round in 6 to WSH
2017 – Pittsburgh – Won Stanley Cup in 6 vs NSH
2016 – Chicago – Lost in 1st Round in 7 to STL
2015 – Los Angeles – Missed Playoffs
2014 – Chicago – Lost in Conference Final in 7 to LAK
2013 – Los Angeles – Lost in Conference Final in 5 to CHI
2012 – Boston – Lost in 1st Round in 7 to WSH
2011 – Chicago – Lost in 1st Round in 7 to VAN
2010 – Pittsburgh – Lost in 2nd Round in 7 to MTL
2009 – Detroit – Lost in Stanley Cup Final in 7 to PIT

The other somewhat unique situation for the Golden Knights is that this series is a rematch from the previous postseason. Vegas and Dallas met in the Western Conference Final a year ago and VGK raced out to a 3-0 series lead before sealing the deal in six games.

There have been just 10 playoff rematches in the past six seasons. The good news for the Golden Knights is the team that won the first matchup prevailed in six of the 10. In truth, that number should be seven too because we all know the Golden Knights did not really lose to the Sharks in 2019.

Seven of those 10 rematches saw the series extend to at least six games and three made it all the way to Game 7.

Rematches
2023 – EDM vs LAK – EDM in 6 (2022 EDM in 7)
2023 – TBL vs TOR – TOR in 6 (2022 TBL in 7)
2022 – TBL vs FLA – TBL in 4 (2021 TBL in 6)
2020 – TBL vs CBJ – TBL in 5 (2019 CBJ in 4)
2020 – BOS vs CAR – BOS in 5 (2019 BOS in 6)
2019 – VGK vs SJS – SJS in 7* (2018 VGK in 6)
2019 – BOS vs TOR – BOS in 7 (2018 BOS in 7)
2018 – WSH vs PIT – WSH in 6 (2017 PIT in 7)
2017 – WSH vs PIT – PIT in 7 (2016 PIT in 6)
2017 – NSH vs ANA – NSH in 6 (2016 NSH in 7)

As mentioned, this is Vegas’ second chance to face a familiar foe in consecutive postseasons, and oddly enough it’s the same coach on the other side in all four series. Back in 2018 and 2019, the two series with the Sharks were quite similar. Vegas feasted on overly aggressive defensemen and utilized transition to torch Martin Jones while the Sharks took advantage of special teams to hurt Vegas.

There are still six Golden Knights who remain from the 2019 team that experienced the biggest bullshit heartbreak in VGK history. William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Mark Stone all remember what it’s like to play the same team in back-to-back postseasons, so they should be ready.